Euro festivals go pop!

Recession and weak currencies are threatening the continent's summer parties

The musician Neil Young will tonight entertain thousands of fans at the Isle of Wight festival before packing up his guitar and heading off to a sold-out Glastonbury, where he will headline along with Bruce Springsteen and a reformed Blur in a fortnight's time.

Despite the uncertainties of our summer weather, the credit crunch, and, in many cases, the same acts doing the rounds, Britain's music festival season is in full swing and rude health. Along with Glastonbury and the Isle of Wight, there will be T in the Park, Womad, V, Reading, Latitude and Bestival to name just a few of more than 100 planned between now and the end of September.

But across Europe it's a different story. In what was once a burgeoning market, particularly in eastern Europe, long starved of Western music during the Cold War, the festival circuit faces crisis. From Denmark's giant Roskilde – Europe's second biggest festival after Glastonbury – to Romania's B'esfest and Hungary's Sziget – promoters are struggling to sell tickets, despite such normally guaranteed draws as Coldplay, Oasis, Fat Boy Slim, the Prodigy and Kanye West.

The problem is the new global economics which makes a festival in eastern Europe too expensive for the people who live in those countries feeling the brunt of the recession – and costs are going up. As local currencies weaken, the fees of mainly Western performers become more difficult to meet; and promoters can no longer rely on Western visitors, for whom the ticket price is cheap.

"As we raise prices to catch up with festivals in western Europe, the Hungarian audience slowly melts," said Gabor Takacs, financial director of Sziget. Sziget, which means "island" and takes place on an island in the Danube river, has in recent years drawn French, German, Dutch and British visitors because it is affordable relative to their home events, he said.

But Western tourists are not travelling so much nowadays. Hungary's foreign visits are down by a fifth so far in 2009, and the tourism board expects a 5 per cent drop for the season. A six-day pass costs €150 euros (£127) – more affordable to a German than to a Hungarian, who earns an average of €475 a month in a country with 10 per cent unemployment.

"That [price] is obscene," said Dorina Keresztes, a 22-year-old student from Budapest. "The ticket price is only the beginning. You have to eat, drink, smoke. Lounging in a park drinking wine with friends is, you know, free."

However, the cost of staging a festival also rises if, like Hungary, your currency has weakened sharply. Mr Takacs said foreign headliners' fees – his biggest expense – grew by about 20 per cent this year.

In Bucharest, the B'esfest festival was scheduled to break even this year – a plan organisers have now revised. Profitability is now not expected before 2011. "This is only our third year," said spokesman Guido Janssens. "We wanted to raise prices a bit, but most of our audience is from Romania, so in this economy, we would have scared them off. Even now, we probably will not sell out."

Roskilde, Europe's largest festival by visitor days, is feeling the nordic chill, a spokesman, Esben Danielsen, said. "Sales in Denmark are going very well," he said. "But a third of our audience comes from other parts of northern Europe. These days in Iceland, which nearly went bankrupt, or in Sweden, where the krona weakened a lot, we don't do so well."

"People used to go to two, three or four a year," added Mikolaj Ziolkowski, a festival organiser in Poland. "Now they might choose just the biggest one with the best line-up."

To add to the woe, festivals are also losing sponsors, who could once be relied on to pump in cash in order to target a young audience. A mature festival typically receives less than 10 per cent of its budget from sponsors, relying instead on ticket sales and concessions. Sponsors put up nearer a quarter of the budget of many eastern European festivals, however.

Sziget has seen some corporate sponsors including Nokia and Magyar Telekom pull out.

But there is some good news. Among sponsors who are sticking with the festival market, brewers in general are keen: with the world's top four beer makers headquartered in Europe, the festival landscape is a patchwork of labels.

"It's a natural fit," said Keld Strudahl, the global sponsorship director of Carlsberg, whose brands back festivals from Glastonbury in Britain to Exit in Serbia. "A festival is the natural environment for drinking beer."

And weaker local currencies do have the benefit of translating into cheaper beer prices. "Last year, a pint of beer cost €2," Mr Takacs said. "This year, it will be €1.50."

Europe's summer festivals

Roskilde Roskilde, Denmark, 2-5 July

Tickets: £210 for camping, day tickets only for Sunday at gates.

Headliners: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Coldplay, Kanye West, Oasis. Nobel Peace Prize-winner Dr Muhammad Yunus will also speak.

Size: 175 bands; capacity 75,000.

Good to know: All profit to victims of climate change in south Asia.

Sziget Budapest, Hungary, 10-17 August

Tickets: £158 for camping, no one-day tickets available.

Headliners: Manic Street Preachers, Faith No More, Lily Allen.

Size: More than 200 international acts; capacity 80,000.

Good to know: Beer just £1.32 a pint.

Rock Werchter Werchter, Belgium, 2-5 July

Tickets: Only one-day tickets are left, priced from £66.

Headliners: The Prodigy, Oasis, Coldplay, the Killers.

Size: 60 acts; capacity 80,000.

Good to know: Public transport to festival is free.

Exit Novi Sad, Serbia, 9-12 July

Tickets: £86 for four days plus camping, one-day tickets at gates.

Headliners: Arctic Monkeys, Korn, the Prodigy, Moby.

Size: 100 acts; capacity 47,000.

Good to know: Began in 2000 as act of rebellion against Milosevic.

Pohoda Trencin, Slovakia, 16-18 July

Tickets: Three-day tickets cost £52, one-day tickets start at £43.

Headliners: Basement Jaxx, Razorlight, Travis, Klaxons.

Size: More than 160 acts; capacity 27,000.

Good to know: Waltz lessons available so everyone can dance when orchestras play their "set".

B'esfest Bucharest, Romania,

1-5 July

Tickets: Three-day tickets from £55, one-day tickets from £30.

Headliners: Santana, the Killers, Moby, Motorhead.

Size: 30-plus acts; capacity 30,000.

Good to know: No camping, but special hotel rates.

Hannah McCarthy

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk